By Zach Powers '10
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, WASH. (December 23, 2015)- On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Pacific Lutheran University students presented representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project a check for $500 — revenue from a small business venture the students launched as part of the PLU School of Business’ intensive course on entrepreneurship.
According to Assistant Professor of Business Kory Brown, the undergraduate course is all about “learning by doing.” Nearly every lesson throughout the semester was applicable to the small business ventures students worked together to launch.
Working in groups of 5-6, students created, marketed and sold a wide variety of products including a fantasy football themed board game, a stacking game similar to Jenga, t-shirts raising awareness about natural disasters and a cooking paste for Latino food.
Every group was enrolled in the “Online Venture Challenge,” a nationwide program that requires student teams to start real online businesses that compete for 30 days to raise money for charity.
Composed of Jillian Stanphill ‘16, Freddie Fisher ‘16, Liandra Daniels ’16, Bree Watkins ’16 and Justin Lee ’16, the group that generated the most revenue created a line of scented candles.
“Using themes that are unique to this area, like Mt. Rainier and evergreen (trees), we created scented candles that portray the Pacific Northwest,” Stanphill said.
The group, which named their business “Northwest Trade: Proud Supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project,” leveraged personal connections to sell a total of 203 candles both individually and wholesale.
Fisher and Lee work at PLU’s Garfield Book Company, and Daniels and Stanphill work at the Old Main Market in the Anderson University Center. They were able to negotiate arrangements with their respective store managers to sell Northwest Trade candles at both establishments.
Northwest Trade’s largest candle buyer was Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 627 Security Forces Squadron. The connection between the business students and the squadron was forged by Watkins’ husband, an active duty member of the Air Force.
The squadron purchased Northwest Trade’s candles at wholesale price and then resold them to raise money for its annual military ball.
All five students who worked together on Northwest Trade have either a family member or good friend in the military, so when Watkins suggested they consider the Wounded Warrior Project the vote was unanimous.
“I work for Social Security, so I help people apply for disability benefits,” Watkins explained. “Wounded Warriors is able to do a lot of really cool things that normal disability programs don’t. It’s a really inspirational program.”
After graduating this spring, Watkins plans to utilize her business degree by transferring to the JBLM office of the Army’s Department of Behavioral Health. She hopes to serve as an administrator working on marketing and outreach to service members about the mental health resources available to active duty and veteran members.
Other members of Northwest Trade aspire to own and invest in small businesses (Daniels), practice corporate law (Stanphill) and work in market research (Fisher). Lee has yet to decide what area of business he’d like specialize in. He has been accepted into PLU’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and will begin graduate coursework this fall.
The group says they are not sure what’s next for Northwest Trade, but they are exploring their options.
“The business’ future is up in the air,” Fisher said. “We’re debating whether or not to participate in the business plan model competition this spring at PLU.”
Northwest Trade presented their $500 donation to Wounded Warrior Project staff members and U.S. military veterans Gary Cashman and Nino Gray Jr. at the entrepreneurship course’s last meeting of the semester. Cashman and Gray Jr. shared a bit about the Wounded Warrior Project and enjoyed a celebratory pizza dinner with the students.